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The Poem Cat

 Sometimes the poem
doesn't want to come;
it hides from the poet
like a playful cat
who has run
under the house
& lurks among slugs,
roots, spiders' eyes,
ledge so long out of the sun
that it is dank
with the breath of the Troll King.
Sometimes the poem darts away like a coy lover who is afraid of being possessed, of feeling too much, of losing his essential loneliness-which he calls freedom.
Sometimes the poem can't requite the poet's passion.
The poem is a dance between poet & poem, but sometimes the poem just won't dance and lurks on the sidelines tapping its feet- iambs, trochees- out of step with the music of your mariachi band.
If the poem won't come, I say: sneak up on it.
Pretend you don't care.
Sit in your chair reading Shakespeare, Neruda, immortal Emily and let yourself flow into their music.
Go to the kitchen and start peeling onions for homemade sugo.
Before you know it, the poem will be crying as your ripe tomatoes bubble away with inspiration.
When the whole house is filled with the tender tomato aroma, start kneading the pasta.
As you rock over the damp sensuous dough, making it bend to your will, as you make love to this manna of flour and water, the poem will get hungry and come just like a cat coming home when you least expect her.

by Erica Jong
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